Whee! Guy Fawkes! Fireworks for all!
And…dear me, is this a timely update I see before me? Yes, because my pointless angst muse has seen fit to return at last…although why he's manifesting as James Barrie's Captain Hook I have no idea…
But I'm Gone
One morning a few years ago (how many? Fifty? A hundred? He thought it might be closer to fifty, but he couldn't be sure), he'd returned to the apartment early. Rumor had been abounding for the past several weeks about a new legislation, one that entailed a further drop in energon rationings. It wasn't particularly surprising- rationings had been falling steadily lower almost since the end of the war- but the prescribed amount, he had noted, would leave the pair of them barely on the edge of coping. (In the months that followed, to no one's surprise, starvation would break out in almost every Sector. They themselves would survive only by ruthless conservation.)
He'd gone to discover whether or not the rumor could be verified, and had found that it had been. He didn't quite remember what he'd said to the official who had verified it, only that whatever it was would be thought, in certain parts of the universe, to be indicative of a poor vocabulary.
Scorpinok had heard the news over the radio waves by the time he'd returned. The smaller Decepticon was sitting on the windowsill, staring pensively out at the sky with one leg dangling. As Scope had stared at him, he'd sighed, and murmured, "I guess it could be worse."
Scope had looked at him and, for only the second time ever, felt the rise of utter despair.
There were places that had never been repaired…
The Pit was a long, thin strip of land. Places like it existed all over Cybertron, especially on some of the lower levels, but it was generally recognized as the largest.
The design of new and innovative bombs had become, during the war, not so much a hobby as a way of life. Every generation was handed the old skills, and every new generation found ways of improving on old design. Decepticon tradition had held that if you could not, at least, manufacture something that exploded roughly when and where you wanted it to, you were not a Decepticon. You were prey.
And bombs planted beneath the ground held far more terror for a species that couldn't fly than for one that could.
The end result was that much of Cybertron was a just-habitable time-bomb. Word had it that both the Maximal Elders and the Tripredicus Council were working to clear the planet's major cities of mines, especially now that commercial enterprise was tentatively creeping back onto Cybertron. But the Sectors had remained untouched, either by a lack of time or equipment or, more probably, inclination. Some of the more cynical had registered the opinion that both the council and the elders were waiting for all refugees and unemployed to accidentally detonate some vast network of mines and helpfully eradicate themselves.
And then there was the Pit.
In its way, it was testament to the ingenuity of both species. It had counted as neutral ground for half a millennia, which meant that both sides had been in a race to see who could make it more uninhabitable. And it was amazing, the sort of things large groups of intelligent people could come up with, when provided with enough time.
The bombs that just exploded were the best. Some of the worse ones involved chemical fallouts that other planets could barely hope to dream of. There were subtler, niftier little numbers called 'dancers', which, when detecting an Autobot symbol within twenty feet, would arise spinning gently from the ground untilthey were hovering at head height. At which point the outer shell would retreat and the arresting array of spikes would appear, andthey would explode, sending a thousand needles out in every direction. If these merely took your head off, you could count yourself lucky. There were those who equipped their particular renditions with specially blended toxins, which the needles pumped instantly into the nearest fuel line, guaranteed to provide a slow, vocals-exhausted-from-screaming death.
Despite all this, the Pit was traversable. There were pathways running through it like cracks through glass that were relatively safe. Most of the chemicals had died away after the first two hundred years. Thee still lurked pockets of invisible death here and there, but Predacons learned to be good at avoiding those. Mines were still a problem but, if you had lived most of your life as a Decepticon, you learned to avoid them too. At the very least, you learned how to bounce.
As a meeting place, the Pit was lousy.
Scope looked into the blurred middle distance and had serious reservations.
Not that he intended to back down now. Such a move would count, in his opinion, as very definite cowardice, especially seeing as Scorpinok was displaying no concerns as to their welfare. Scorpinok who, Scope was aware, knew far less about avoiding chemical mines than he did. Besides, this was a test. Scope was intelligent enough to recognize a challenge when it was issued, and he was, thus far, fascinated. It would be worth the risk, if only to see who would do such a thing.
The notion had crossed his mind that this may well all be a Maximal trick, a means by which the Elders could sniff out reprobates and eliminate them from the complicated business of running a planet. If that was the case, he was more than prepared to go down in a rain of laserfire, hopefully taking more than a few of them with him as he did. He had suspicions, however, that it wasn't a trick…at least, not one so obvious. Slow though he was, dim-witted though he seemed, Scorpinok was not stupid. His intuition was one of the few things that could be relied on.
"Do you see him?" asked Scorpinok, wriggling over a piece of debris that looked like a fallen pillar.
Scope muttered a negative, giving the area one last scan before transforming.
They moved like eels through the wreckage, Scope going first. Transformed, he was slower than usual, but equipped with an armored hull that rendered him far less likely to lose more than his fair share of body parts in the unlikely event that he did wander too close to a mine. Scorpinok, whose alt-mode was that of a small and, at times, embarrassingly delicate six-wheeled tracking device, remained in his better-protected robot form.
Not that a few ounces of extra armor would save you if you were foolish enough to wander from the path, Scope thought. If the initial blast didn't rip your pieces to pieces, the second and third would. There were areas in the Pit so densely packed in with mines that setting off one would trigger a chain reaction violent enough to register on the satellite of the Maximal High Council (situated on the other side of the planet.)
It was, to his undying humiliation, half an hour before Scope realized that they were being followed. He weighed up the situation, and allowed it to continue until both he and Scorpinok had reached an area relatively free of debris. After transforming, a brief argument was held as to whether doing battle or doing the sensible thing and hiding behind the nearest piece of shrapnel would be the better part of valor.
The decision was made for them when a cheery voice from behind Scope said, "Ah, there you are. Good morning."
Every cable in Scorpinok's body locked into place, before recognition cut in and he almost laughed with relief.
"It's him", he muttered.
Scope, who hadn't moved a single square inch, thought, He followed us. For at least five miles, if I'm not mistaken. 'Good morning', indeed…
Megatron greeted them both with a nod and a smile.
Scorpinok had taken in only those details he considered useful. A tad more prudent and a yard more cynical, Scope took in the rest.
Gun alt-modes were forbidden in the Sectors, but it was the only option he would have put money on. The sleek lines and elegant framework, especially when combined with that smile, put him in mind of nothing so much as a very well polished, very nicely stylized but mostly, very sharp blade. Like Scorpinok, he had no doubt that the newcomer was of Predacon design. There were some things Maximals didn't do, and one of them was the openly sinister creature that stood before them. The detail that kept niggling at Scope's mind was whether he was also a Decepticon. At the time of the change, many new Predacons had been created from scrap, in an effort to study the effect that a smaller body had on an unformed mind. Decepticon and Autobot scientists had been alternately relieved and dismayed to discover that the matter of size had no effect on the ability to contain enough malevolent evil to stuff a medium-sized universe with.
Aesthetically, the mechanism was a masterpiece. So it was a pity that Scope had been considering killing him even before he'd begun speaking.
"So you'll have to forgive my lateness, I fear", Megatron was saying, "but it couldn't be helped. I had…urgent business to attend to over in Sector Seven. Scorpinok, is this your…friend?"
A twinge of annoyance flickering at the almost friendly informality, Scope's optics narrowed slightly as Scoropinok nodded.
"I told him you'd explain the plan, Me-Megatron", replied the scientist, stumbling over the casual usage of the most dreaded Decepticon ruler ever to exist. The purple Predacon-if that was what he was-had not asked for an honorific. Neither had he earned one, so Scorpinok, reluctantly, stuck with 'Megatron'.
"Ex-cellent. If I might know your name…?" he queried, addressing Scope this time, who growled and gave it.
No back-up, the warrior finally decided, having taken in every nearby nook and cranny out the corners of his optics. He's alone out here. And he knew there would be two of us. And he must have known we'd be armed. And you can't tuck very large weapons into subspace and he's not carrying any.
Scope, of course, had brought his saber and had persuaded the enraptured Scorpinok to bring his gun. Neither, he'd reasoned, would be much use against a platoon of Maximal soldiers, but going into the Pit to meet with an unknown renegade of questionable affiliation without weaponry was beyond dishonorable and into the land of the tragically stupid.
"I assume Scorpinok has filled you in on the skeletal structure of my plans?"
"He has", snarled Scope, folding both arms and scowling in an attempt to wipe that convivial attitude away.
"Splendid. Shall we, then, sit down and talk?"
"You choose an…odd location for discussion."
"My dear Scope, can you think of better? The Maximals don't dare come here, and I doubt any wondering tourists would bother with disturbing us."
The answer was obvious, of course, and Scope was interested to detect, for the first time, a slight break in the charming, blessed-be-the-oily tone of voice. Right about where he'd said 'Maximals'…
"And, for some reason, your compatriot didn't feel it would be wise for us to meet at your living quarters. He felt you might…object, for some reason."
Having serious reservations or not, Scope gave silent thanks for his roommate's occasional bursts of astuteness. Indeed, he would have objected vey strongly to having a potentially insane revolutionary knowing exactly where they lived.
"Very well. Let us…talk."
Two cycles later, they walked back the way they came. Albeit, at a slightly slower pace.
"So, what did you think?" Scorpinok asked at last. He looked sideways at the other warrior, who was still in robot mode.
The noise that escaped Scope's vocals, in any other being, would have been taken for a low, threatening growl, but Scorpinok had learnt to recognize his friend's unique 'hmm's. Scorpinok waited.
"He certainly seemed very…confident", Scope finally admitted.
They made their way beyond a large, metallic edifice that lay directly across the path, Scorpinok by clamoring laboriously over the top, Scope by ducking under one sharp, rib-like protrusion twice as tall as he was. What little of the twisted, burnt out hull was still recognizable looked like nothing so much as the upper torso of a dead city-former. As he made his way down the other side, Scorpinok's foot caught on a piece of loose debris, sending it clanking and clattering down the remains of a shoulder-joint. Both winced in unison, as though expecting the mammoth warrior to rise from the scrap heap and smite them.
It wasn't until they reached the city's outer limits that they spoke again.
"Are we going to do it?" Scorpinok asked in a low, quiet voice.
Scope looked at the older warrior and thought, You are, no matter what I say. That much has already been decided.
"He said he'd give us a day to make up our minds", Scorpinok said nonchalantly, after a pause.
Scope scowled at him.
"I fail to see why he bothered. He's already got you in his thrall with very little effort whatsoever."
Scorpinok shrugged, well aware that rising to Scope's taunts rarely did any good.
"Maybe I'm not the one he's interested in", he pointed out softly.
The larger mech gave his companion a long, hard, scrutinizing look. Apparently reaching some inner decision, he curtly said that he would decide the next day. Scorpinok nodded, offering acceptance, as was his wont.
"I've got an idea", he announced as they entered the ash-world of the Sector, putting away all talk of Megatron and his plans.
"Why don't we go and get over-energized?"
Scope stared, this time in confusion. He hadn't heard the slighter mech make such a suggestion since the aftermath of his last suicide attempt. And that had been two hundred and fifty years ago.
"What?" he asked, for once wondering if he had heard correctly.
"Well", said Scorpinok in the reasonable, mathematician's voice that accompanied all his good moods, "if you agree, I'll want to drink myself circuitless to celebrate. And if you don't, I'm gonna need something to frag my sorrows in."
"…Very well. Let us drink and be merry."
For tomorrow…a dark voice added in his head.
Scorpinok must have noticed the belabored look, for he suddenly broke into a grin the likes of which Scope hadn't ever seen him produce. "Quit worrying. The night is young."
"I, however, am not."